Thursday, April 11, 2013

happy birthday mobile phones

Up until 40 years ago, people were doomed to use fixed line phones to communicate.

How dull must it have been to have to wait until you saw someone, or until you were in reach of a "landline" phone before you could share the details of your lunch? And, imagine this, you couldn't send them an image of your lunch or a funny sign you had seen because, not only were phones stationary, but they also didn't have cameras!!

Then 40 years ago this month, a researcher from Motorola made the first "mobile phone" call from a street corner in New York. The heavy, ugly monstrosity used by the Motorola employee would be unrecognisable using today's definition of mobility, but it sure does mark the start of something big.

It wasn't until the 80's that i can remember seeing mobile phones in the wild. These were monsters too, mostly battery, with huge LCD or LED number screens. As batteries became smaller and processing power per square centimetre began increasing at an exponential rate, mobile phones became practical and affordable.


I was a late bloomer. I scowled through the 80s and 90s, like most people my age. People with mobile phones were tossers, sharing loud conversations about nothing with train loads of resentful commuters. The best thing about those times was that the few who did have them, didn't have them on and out all of the time.

My fist mobile was a shared one. We worked shifts and contracts, so whoever was doing a night, or going for interviews would use it. If nobody needed it, it was often forgotten in a drawer. I later thought of that first phone as big, but my current "phone" is actually bigger. The smallest phone i ever owned was a tiny little sony ericsson. It was so small it was impractical. Small used to be in, but now, unless you can watch a movie on it, it's not big enough!

As i look around at my fellow commuters on the tram every morning, i see that nearly every one of them is immersed in some kind of entertainment only available since the smartphone: web browsing, listening to music, tweeting, emailing, reading and writing. Its so quiet, its almost ominous.

People rely on mobile technology, especially smart phones, more and more. To lose one causes panic. Not to have one carries a stigma.

Mobile phones have made us dependant, susceptible and more ignorant. We now carry devices that deliver advertising to us wherever we are newsmin abbreviated formats, allowingmus to know a lot less about so much more.

Mobile phones continue to change society in subtly fundamental ways.

We're contactable at any time and able to share our experiences with anyone who cares to read about it.

Even at times when it seems inappropriate (on the toilet) or dangerous and illegal (whilst driving) we seem to consider it a basic right to be able to respond immediately to our electronic companions.

I heard a story on ABC radio recently that there has been a problem with jury members using twitter during trials and deliberations! And what about the priests who answer a mobile phone whilst performing a marriage ceremony and even a funeral service? It has happened. It makes the rude bastards using their phones in the cinema seem almost decent.
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